Both Home Secretary Suella Braverman and policing minister Chris Philp have already called on police to be tougher on shoplifting (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Shop workers have called on police officers to do more to help combat ‘unprecedented levels’ of theft and abuse which they say is blighting communities.
The coalition of businesses and staff claims they are not turning up to deal with violent attacks on workers because the criminal has already fled the scene.
In a letter to police and crime commissioners across the country, they said that ‘in the vast majority, if not all’ cases there will be CCTV footage available and urged forces to make it easier for them to pass on crucial evidence and boost efforts to find serial offenders.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimates theft costs retailers nearly £1 billion per year, while the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) says nine in 10 workers have experienced verbal abuse.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: ‘Retail crime is getting worse – thieves are becoming bolder, and more aggressive. Violent and abusive behaviour is on the rise.
‘These confrontations might be over in a matter of minutes, but for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime.
‘Retailers are working hard to reduce crime, investing nearly £1 billion into crime prevention measures in the last year.
‘But now we need the police to do more to prioritise retail crime and bring levels of violence, abuse and theft down for good.’
Both Home Secretary Suella Braverman and policing minister Chris Philp have already called on police to be tougher on shoplifting.
(ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: ‘The unprecedented levels of shop theft being faced by retailers cannot be allowed to continue.
‘We have set out a three-pronged approach for police forces across the UK to adopt and make it clear that they are committed to tackling the problem.
‘Theft and abuse are a blight on communities, with addicts and criminal gangs repeatedly targeting hardworking retailers and their colleagues.
‘These are not victimless crimes, and they must be investigated to bring the most prolific offenders to justice.’
The coalition is made up of business groups the ACS, the BRC, the British Independent Retail Association, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Federation of Independent Retailers and shopworkers’ union Usdaw.
Its letter says: ‘Rather than seeing this as high volume, low value crime, we can recognise the opportunity it gives us to identify prolific offenders who blight communities by committing these and other crimes.
‘You should expect retailers to provide good quality evidence on offenders, and they should expect this to be analysed, investigated and followed up with meaningful interventions for those individuals.
‘We can break the cycle of reoffending if we take this opportunity to commit to this approach.’
It calls for police action in three areas:
– To make it easier for retailers to report crime and submit evidence. Currently systems are unclear and time-consuming, the group said.
– To identify prolific offenders behind most of the thefts and anti-social behaviour – it singles out Nottinghamshire and Sussex police forces for praise for their systems that focus on collecting data on the worst criminals.
– To prioritise gathering evidence related to violent attacks.
The letter goes on: ‘We often see scenarios where violence against shopworkers is not responded to by the police because incidents do not meet forces’ threat, harm and risk criteria as offenders have left the premises after committing an offence.
‘In the vast majority, if not all, of retail businesses there will be CCTV footage available to support police lines of inquiry into violent incidents.
‘Therefore, we would like to see the proactive collection of evidence prioritised by police forces.’
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has been approached for comment.
Katy Bourne, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for business and retail crime, said PCCs are working at a national level to improve the police response.
She said: ‘I completely understand the sectors’ frustration and their concerns for their members. I’ve seen for myself the fear, the harm and the damage that too many shop staff and retailers are experiencing.
‘From the many businesses I have met it is sadly evident that, too often, the policing response they have received – assuming they got one – is not what they expect.
‘However, we also cannot overlook the fact that police forces face a huge daily demand on their finite resources so they will have to prioritise a physical response based on the threat posed to staff and customers and the likelihood of catching up with the offender.’
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Some forces are reviewing ways to make reporting shoplifting easier, while Sussex already has a number in place including one that reduces the time needed from 30 minutes to two.
There is also Operation Pegasus, a scheme to gather intelligence about organised crime groups who shoplift.
Ms Bourne, who is Sussex PCC, added: ‘I’d also like to see prolific shoplifters monitored with electronic tags, as happens with persistent domestic abuse perpetrators and burglars, so I’ll be raising this with ministers and officials.
‘If we want to retain our villages and high streets and shopping malls as pleasant places to shop and visit we have to be more proactive, more imaginative and more robust. We can’t retreat and give up or our stores will close up.’
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